We’re talking today to Mike DiCerto, author of the middle grade fantasy novel, The Door to Far-Myst: The Adventures of Rupert Starbright. A filmmaker and writer since childhood, Mike DiCerto has directed numerous shorts, music videos, documentaries, promotional videos and two feature films (NO EXIT and TRIPTOSANE). His first novel, Milky Way Marmalade, received rave reviews and was the winner of the 2003 Dream Realm Award.
Thank you for this interview, Mike. How did you get into writing for middle grade children?
Mike: I have a wild imagination and a very positive worldview so I think it was natural for to drift this way. I am so glad I did. It filled me with joy to enter the word of Rupert Starbright.
Is a hard genre to write or did ideas and words come easily for you?
Mike: Once I get going it really is a breeze. This is why I think it is the genre I should call “home”. It feels right.
What author(s) in the middle grade or fantasy genre do you admire?
Mike: I read mostly non-fiction about all sorts of esoteric subjects but I recall as a middle-grader loving the classic books of E.B. White, Richard and Florence Atwater, Tolkien, E.L. Konigsburg and Ruth Chew. E.B. White really captures this warmth and comfortable quality that I think I wrote into The Door to Far-Myst (and all future Adventures of Rupert Starbright books).
You’re published by Zumaya Publications in their Threshold imprint. What’s that like for you to be published by a small press? Advantages and disadvantages?
Mike: I guess a disadvantage is not getting into bookstores very easily but then again, most people but their books online these days! An advantage is a closer relationship with the publisher. Quick communication. Zumaya employs an on-line real-time editing system which I greatly enjoyed.
Your main character, Rupert Starbright, finds himself in some uncompromising situations. Can you tell us more about him?
Mike: Rupert is a good kid with a great heart. He has an adventurous spark that has been kept from flaming up in his dull and fearful world of Graysland. Until he gets a chance to discover this magical thing called “imagination” that lives within him. He has a wonderful sense of compassion and fairness that makes Rupert someone readers will fall in love with.
In this first volume of the The Door to Far-Myst series, how does Rupert grow from beginning to end?
Mike: In volume one Rupert goes through more in a few days in Far-Myst than his entire eleven years in Grayland. He comes face to face with death and grows and matures as his adventure unfolds. He also learns how powerful his imagination is and the amazing tool it is for survival and dealing with difficult people.
If you had to pick out one particular passage in the whole book which you truly think readers would enjoy, what would that be?
Mike: Rupert had gathered six stones and was seeking the final one needed to complete the fire ring when a soft, high-pitched voice called to him.
“Hey! Hey, human!”
Rupert darted his eyes about, looking for the source of the voice.
“Who said that?”
“I’m right in front of your face. The green plant with the little red peppers. Sheesh. For someone wandering the gardens with the chief gardener you sure are dumb.”
“I’m not dumb! It’s just that where I come from plants and trees only drop dead leaves. They don’t juggle or glow or annoy people.”
“You want to see something really, really amazing.”
“Pick one of my peppers and eat it.”
“Mr. Weaver told me not to touch anything.”
“Are my peppers growing off Weaver’s arms
and legs? Pick a pepper and pop it in your big mouth.”
Hesitantly, Rupert lifted the tiny brilliant-red
fruit to his nose.
“Don’t smell it. Just throw it in your mouth. Chew it real good and swallow it.”
Rupert did. For a few seconds, he just froze, and his eyes widened. Then his cheeks turned as red as the pepper, and he gasped.
“What are you trying to do, kill me?” he asked, hopping up and down on one foot and waving his hands at his tongue.
The plant was giggling.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the garden!” The pepper plant giggled some more.
“Not funny. That was hot.”
“Yeah, I know. But now comes the fun part. Tell me the story.”
“The one I grew. The one you just ate. I grow tons of them. Poems, stories. I hear them in the wind. Or discussed by the trees. I’m a pepper poet plant.”
“A what?” Rupert asked, still waving his hand before his open mouth.
“A pepper poet plant. A tongue-twister, I’ll admit. I stick the stories in the peppers and wait for some sucker like you to come along, eat them and recite to me my literary brilliance. I’m the hottest author in these gardens.”
The plant laughed again, and Rupert rolled his eyes.
“Get it? Hottest author! I crack myself up!”
“I know. So, tell me my story.”
“I don’t know what you are talking...” Rupert stopped speaking as a smile filled his face. “That’s weird.”
“What is, kid?”
“I hear words in my head. They’re just popping in.”
“What the heck did I just finish telling you? Tell me my story.”
“Your story? It’s my story! The words are about me and Pie O’Sky coming to Far-Myst in his bagoon.”
“Mister Dullz! Are you done with the fire ring yet?” Weaver shouted.
“Just getting the last stone,” Rupert called back.
“Hurry. It’ll be dark soon. I want the camp set up in one minute.”
Rupert lifted the stone and turned to the pepper poet.
“I have to go.”
“What about my story? I made you famous,” the plant whined.
“Tell it to yourself,” Rupert said, walking off. “I’m living my own story.”
What’s next for you, Mike? More books on the horizon?
Mike: Book two of The Adventures of Rupert Starbright, THE SECRET OF MY-MYST, will be out in March of 2012. I am writing book three and I am very excited about them both! I cannot wait to see the covers Brad Foster will create (book one is gorgeous).
Thank you so much for this interview. Do you have anything you’d like to tell my readers?
If you are sad that the great Harry Potter has retired, give Rupert Starbright a chance. A different kind of adventure but you will fall in love with him and his friends just the same!
You can visit Mike’s website at www.mikedicerto.com or his blog at http://thekidinu.blogspot.com/. Connect with him at Twitter at www.twitter.com/ triptosane and Facebook at www.facebook.com/mdicerto.